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Value Added Leadership

By January 12, 2015 2 Comments

Years ago, my dad shared with me a principle about leadership that I’ve never forgotten.  “If you think you’re a leader,” he said, “but no one is following you, you’re just a guy out taking a walk.”

The reason that statement has stayed with me is that I realize that perhaps the hardest part of any kind of leadership is inspiring  others to follow.  Whether your leadership role is as a parent, a tee-ball coach, a CEO of a major corporation, all of the above, or something else, there is one concept that has the potential to catapult your outcomes to the next level.

It’s a truth many leaders ignore.

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I was in my early twenties working for Honda as an automotive service advisor when I first heard the term “value added” used in reference to job performance and personal interactions.

At the time, Honda was riding a wave of goodwill in the US as a result of a general impression that their vehicles were better designed, more reliable, and had better resale than most of their competitors.

However, the business geniuses at American Honda knew that having a great product wasn’t good enough.  They needed great people having great interactions with their customers to keep the momentum going.  As a result, they were hard at work training people like myself to add value to their interactions with customers.

It’s been years since I worked in that industry, but I’ve never forgotten what “value added” means; it’s enhanced my relationships in almost every arena of my life.

Here’s what “value added” is all about.  We generally approach interactions and transactions in life with an expectation.  We have a picture of how the interaction will probably go, and we have a general idea what the outcome should be.

For instance, if I stop at my favorite fast food restaurant on the way to work tomorrow, I have a general expectation of how that transaction will go.  I have an expectation of how easy it will be to approach the staff with my order, and how long it will take.  There are certain things I expect them to do without my asking, like providing a straw for my drink, and a few napkins in case I eat sloppily in my car.

My satisfaction level with this restaurant visit is likely to hinge on my expectations being met.  That is “value expected.”  Sometimes in life, unfortunately, our minimum expectations are not met in interactions.

For instance, on a personal level, if you have a conversation with someone about a problem and they don’t even take the time to listen to your concerns or opinions, that’s an example of basic expectations not being met.  That’s a “value expected” fail.  That’s why most of us work very diligently to make sure that we don’t let people down in our lives.  We want to make sure that we’re meeting their expectations.

Value added” kicks it up a notch.

A “value added” interaction is one in which you bring to the situation an extra, perhaps unexpected, positive element for the benefit of the other person.

It means that when you have that conversation with someone you care about, you don’t just listen, you find a way to reflect feelings in such a way that they feel understood.  It means that when you talk to a difficult customer at work, you don’t just try to solve their problem, you try to give them an extra reason to do business with your company.    It means that when you spend time with your kids, you don’t just babysit, you engage.  It means that when you attend your small group, you don’t just participate, you encourage and inspire.

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As a leader, it means that you are as concerned with your team’s expectations of you as you are your expectations of them.  When you interact with the people you’re leading, you look for ways to surprise them with extra pluses that inspire them to trust that you’re thinking about their future as much as you’re thinking about yours.

Great outcomes come when we commit to kick things up a notch.  Big things happen as the result of big goals.  So think about what people expect from you, and then think about ways you can blow the lid off of those expectations.  Because we live in a world where expectations tend to be generally low, you might be surprised how easy it is to add value to an interaction.  When the bar is set low, there is a lot of potential for working this dynamic to your advantage.

But if you find yourself up against high expectations and struggle to add value, don’t forget the example of Joseph in the book of Genesis.  Here’s a guy who was targeted by his siblings, owned as a slave, and struggling to find a workable dynamic in a foreign country where he didn’t understand the customs or the language.  But no matter where he was, whether in Potiphar’s house, in prison, or later managing the resources of all Egypt, the Bible tells us that the Lord was with Joseph, and as a result he added value to everything he touched.

As a result of his dedication in this area, Joseph stands as an example of next level leadership that has inspired exceptional people for generations.  Let’s get inspired to be diligent, both in our followship of Jesus Christ and in our desire to surprise others with outcomes beyond their expectations.

by Jonathan Hoover

by Jonathan Hoover

Jonathan Hoover is the author of “The Blindfolded Marriage,” and is the associate pastor and couples pastor of NewSpring Church in Wichita, KS. As a teacher, Jonathan is known for taking complex truths and making them accessible for couples through powerful stories and illustrations. Through his teaching, writing, and coaching ministries, Jonathan has shared God’s message of hope for couples with thousands of individuals.

2 Comments

  • Shannon says:

    I was recently reminded that if your goal is to satisfy it will be very easy to miss the mark and dissatisfying someone, but if your goal is to WOW a person the least you can do is satisfy them if you do miss the mark. I agree 100% with your added value theory. The only way we can change society as a hole is to show them what it feels like to have high expectations, one person at a time!

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